Opening remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the 49th High-Level Meeting of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)
15 December 2014, Paris, France
(As prepared for delivery)
DAC Chair Erik Solheim,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the OECD for this High-Level Meeting of the Development Assistance Committee. At almost 54 years old, your committee is one of the oldest in existence at the OECD. I am nevertheless pleased to see so many youthful faces around the table today.
Fifty four years! Much has been achieved in this time. When the OECD was born, aid to developing countries was relatively new.
Nevertheless, the DAC rapidly became the place where countries come together to raise the bar on aid; and to keep pushing for better assistance where it is most needed.
As many of you know, the DAC was one of the original architects of the Millennium Development Goals. And the MDGs have – despite many challenges – helped underpin important advances in human development.
For example, the international community succeeded in halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. We should build on these successes and do more.
Romain Schneider, Minister for Social Security of Luxembourg and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD. Photo: OECD/Michael Dean
2015: A critical year for development, for the OECD, and for the DAC
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are now only two weeks away from 2015, which will be a crucial year for the international community; for the OECD; and for you:
In July, we will gather in Addis Ababa to consider development finance – a key contribution to the post-2015 agenda. Ambassador Pedersen, Ambassador Talbot: thank you both for your leadership on this. Please use today’s meeting to tell us how we can help. Don’t be afraid to push us.
By September, the world will need to agree on an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals to underpin our collective efforts for the next decade-and-a-half.
And by the end of 2015, we must reach a comprehensive agreement to address climate change when the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) meets here in Paris.
So, as you can see, the stakes are very high! Your meeting today and tomorrow can help to lay the foundations for consensus in these various fora; to help raise the level of ambition; and to strengthen the trust in the capacity of the international system to support development.
The OECD is seizing opportunities in a changing development finance landscape
At the OECD, we are constantly innovating and adapting our work so that it reflects today’s increasingly complex world. Our work on development finance is no exception. We are helping to make the international tax system fairer; to curb illicit financial flows; and to promote investment in development.
In Brisbane last month, I presented crucial OECD deliverables on tax to G20 leaders. Our Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project is advancing well, and developing countries – who are potentially major beneficiaries of this initiative – are increasingly helping to shape the debate.
94 countries have already committed to join, by 2018, our initiative for the Automatic Exchange of Information for tax purposes (AEOI). 52 of them have already started to implement this commitment by signing a multilateral competent authority agreement.
At the Global Partnership ministerial in Mexico earlier this year, I spoke of our work on Tax, which many of you are supporting. And only two weeks ago, I launched a ground-breaking Foreign Bribery Report, which puts countries’ efforts to tackle the supply side of international bribery in the spotlight. Again, an issue that hampers the prospects of many developing countries.
But this broader development finance agenda cannot be an excuse to back away from our commitments on aid. For some people, aid can still mean the difference between life and death.
Aid volumes from DAC members reached a record high of USD 134 billion last year. Several of you met or maintained the target of contributing 0.7% of GNI as ODA. Congratulations! Allow me also to acknowledge the effort of the United Arab Emirates Madam Minister, Lubna Al Qasimi, which provided 1.34% of its GNI as ODA in 2013, and which officially became a Participant of the DAC this year.
Headline aid figures only tell part of the picture. While aid volumes have risen globally, poor countries are losing out. Between 2010 and 2012, assistance from DAC members to the Least Developed Countries fell by 12%. Meanwhile, aid to upper-middle income countries rose steadily. Shouldn’t this be the other way round? Shouldn’t we focus our aid efforts on those most in need?
I was pleased to see the UN Secretary-General echo our advice on this point in his post-2015 Synthesis Report released a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if this is something that you – as development leaders – could agree to address here, today.
Another issue you will be addressing today is measurement. The choice of what we measure is incredibly important. The OECD statistical system is a global public good, and it has over the years become the “hub” for monitoring aid and other development flows.
I know that the DAC is working hard to secure ODA as a reliable measure of donor effort for years to come. Today’s meeting must get this right. Our reporting standards need to withstand public scrutiny and – crucially – reflect the priorities of our intended beneficiaries.
Work on new measures of support for development will also be crucial. The development finance landscape has changed, and it is fitting that we bring to Addis Ababa a new toolkit that reflects this changed landscape.
Political leadership, trust, and compromise are now crucial
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Progress is being made on this work, and I am encouraged to hear that your discussions on some of the most challenging issues are moving in the right direction.
I hope that the next two days will provide an opportunity to move further in forging a collective vision. A vision that raises the bar for development and, ultimately, inspires continued leadership on the issues that matter most for humanity.
Collectively, the DAC has proven the donor community’s ability to keep aiming high, and it has done so against the most challenging economic backdrop in recent history. Let us build on this legacy together as we enter 2015.
The OECD stands ready to work with you – and for you – as the post-2015 blueprint is finalised, and as that blueprint is turned into action.
When it comes to development, we can and must deliver Better Policies for Better Lives.